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The idea of regional Supreme Court Benches, and ‘divisions’ of the top court

Topics Covered:

  1. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.


The idea of regional Supreme Court Benches, and ‘divisions’ of the top court


What to study?

For Prelims: Supreme Court- various benches and their establishment.

For Mains: Need for division and more benches, challenges involved.


Context: Recently VP M Venkaiah Naidu made the following suggestions;

  1. Institute four regional Benches to tackle the enormous backlog of cases, and to ensure their speedy disposal.
  2. The court should be split into two divisions. 


Why these suggestions were made?

  1. In the early decades of the Republic, the Supreme Court of India functioned largely as a constitutional court, with some 70-80 judgments being delivered every year by Constitution Benches of five or more judges who ruled, as per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, on matters “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of [the] Constitution”.
  2. This number has now come down to 10-12. Due to their heavy workload, judges mostly sit in two- or three-judge Benches to dispose of all kinds of cases; these include several non-Constitutional and relatively petty matters such as bans (or lifting of bans) on films, or allegations that a Commissioner of Police is misusing his powers.
  3. On some occasions, even PILs on demands such as Sardar jokes should be banned, or that Muslims should be sent out of the country, come before the Supreme Court.
  4. More than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years. Several cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution by five or seven judges have been pending for years.


What the Law Commissions said?

  1. The Supreme Court of India should consist of two Divisions, namely (a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division.
  2. Only matters of Constitutional law may be assigned to the proposed Constitutional Division.
  3. A Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues”.
  4. Four Cassation Benches be set up in the Northern region/zone at Delhi, the Southern region/zone at Chennai/Hyderabad, the Eastern region/zone at Kolkata and the Western region/zone at Mumbai to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region”.


Why we need multiple Benches?

It is obvious that travelling to New Delhi or engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.


Who can decide on this?

Article 130 says that “the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.”

Supreme Court Rules give the Chief Justice of India the power to constitute Benches — he can, for instance, have a Constitution Bench of seven judges in New Delhi, and set up smaller Benches in, say, four or six places across the country.


Sources: Indian Express.